Twenty years ago, “The Simpsons” satirized the 1996 presidential election. In “The Simpsons” version, the candidates running for office were actually alien monsters disguised as Senator Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton. Voters did not realize that their only alternatives for president were actually committed to destroying the world. Voters would be forced to choose one alien monster or the other. That’s just the breaks of a two-party system.
The episode is eerily prescient of our current moment and the questions we are facing in 2016. What should people of conscience do when the two-party system renders two completely unacceptable candidates? Is it possible that conscientious voters might find both candidates unqualified for their support? What if both candidates threaten to undermine our constitutional order–one just promises to do so a little slower than the other?
What “The Simpsons” satire illustrates is that it is possible to refuse to vote for either of two bad options. Candidates can be so beyond the pale that it is absurd to try and figure out which one is the “least worst” alternative. In a widely-read essay for Christianity Today, Russell Moore put it this way:
Given these moral convictions, there have been times when I’ve faced two candidates, both of whom were morally disqualified. In one case, one candidate was pro-life but a race-baiter, running against a candidate who was pro-choice. I could not in good conscience put my name on either candidate. I wrote in the name of another leader. Other times, I’ve voted for a minor party candidate…
In the cases when I’ve voted for an independent or written in a candidate, I didn’t necessarily expect that candidate to win—my main objective was to participate in the process without endorsing moral evil. As Christians, we are not responsible for the reality of our two-party system or for the way others exercise their citizenship, but we will give an account for how we delegate our authority. Our primary concern is not the election night victory party, but the Judgment Seat of Christ.
When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).
That is where many people are finding themselves this cycle, and it is why many social conservatives and Christians will abstain or vote for a third party candidate if Trump is the nominee. When these voters do split, you can expect to hear the major party candidates yelling, “Go ahead, throw your vote away!” And when they do, it will be just as absurd and self-serving as when the alien monsters yelled the same.